Greenbank Farm, fair compete the harness the sun

If funding becomes available, the Greenbank Farm would be the next public place on Whidbey Island to harness the power of the sun. Port of Coupeville and Greenbank Farm officials are looking for funding from Puget Sound Energy and local residents to get the money needed to build the project.

Kelly Keilwitz of Whidbey Sun and Wind stands in front of a solar energy project recently installed at the Coupeville Public Library. The Greenbank Farm could be the next solar project should officials receive funding.

If funding becomes available, the Greenbank Farm would be the next public place on Whidbey Island to harness the power of the sun.

Port of Coupeville and Greenbank Farm officials are looking for funding from Puget Sound Energy and local residents to get the money needed to build the project.

The port is one of two entities competing for a $25,000 grant through PSE’s Green Power Challenge. The Island County Fair Association is also competing for the grant.

More than $100,000 is needed to get the solar energy project up and functioning. The port would kick in $8,000. The grant and port contribution will pay for the land and infrastructure for the solar project, said Jim Patton, executive director for the Port of Coupeville. The remaining money will be raised by the Hastings Company, a firm the port is working with to solicit individuals who would be willing to invest in a community solar association.

As envisioned, the demonstration solar system will generate between 10 and 20 kilowatts to help power buildings at the Greenbank Farm. The people investing in the solar energy project would receive production incentives that were recently approved by the state Legislature, said Kelly Keilwitz, owner of Whidbey Sun and Wind. His company recently installed solar panels at the Coupeville Public Library and the Coupeville Middle and High School. Depending on the type of system, where it is built and the type of entity managing the project, the return on investor money could be between 15 cents and $1.08 per kilowatt, Keilwitz said.

The Port of Coupeville recently presented its proposal before the Island County Council of Governments, the entity responsible for awarding the grant. However, the Island County Fair Association submitted a proposal to install solar panels to provide electricity to a restroom and a multi-use room. The association would also build an educational kiosk near its free-standing solar array.

Officials from Puget Sound Energy are weighing the technical aspects of each proposal and will submit a report to the Council of Governments which is expected to award the grant at its May 26 meeting.

The port’s project would be the latest public entity on Central Whidbey Island to incorporate solar power into its building.

The Coupeville Library and Coupeville Middle and High School recently installed solar panels.

The panels at the library were installed on the roof and produce, at peak, 11.5 kilowatts, Keilwitz said. There is online monitoring available for the public and educational kiosks that inform folks about sustainable aspects of the recently expanded library building and its rain garden.

The solar panel project at the high school generates 1 kilowatt to 1.8 kilowatts. Keilwitz said the high school project also includes an educational component, which includes solar car kits, curricula and an online monitoring system.

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